These days we’re hearing a lot about generational differences in the workplace. Companies are receiving training in these generational differences so that they can better manage workplace conflicts. Thus, we learn that Boomers are the original “Me” generation, whereas Gen X’ers, who came of age during the 70s and 80s period of high unemployment, are more accommodating. Now we’re into Gen Y and, apparently, Gen Z. What is going to happen in 10 years when a new generation comes into the labour market? Do we revert to the letter A? Or will it be Z-prime?
There may be some truth to the claims of generational differences, but there are also a lot of problems with them. The same goes for generalized claims of precision in demographic explanations and projections.
These are just some of the logical difficulties with the whole demographics and generational alphabet soup approach. In my opinion, though, a lot of the generational characteristics can simply be attributed to the general age group. Retired people worry about their health and their pensions. People in their fifties also have those concerns, but they are also looking to contribute in qualitative ways and to leave a professional and personal legacy. Workers in their forties worry about job and financial security. They find they pay too many taxes and that they pay for everyone else (primarily because they are entering their high earning years). In their thirties, it’s about getting ahead and professional qualifications. Consequently, people in their thirties are highly competitive in the workplace. They work 60 and 70 hours a week at their jobs and also to get a MBA on a part-time basis. Finally, the twenty-somethings are the idealists. They want to be recognized for their smarts and their energy, but they seldom realize that their intellect is barely tempered by experience.
Of course, my characterizations may be completely off base. However, I suspect that they have just as much validity as those being propounded and hawked by generational consultants and demographic scaremongers.
As the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. Plato thought that men shouldn’t marry or hold public office at least until the age of 30. Why? Because they have a lot of energy but lack judgment and a measured approach to things. Has anything really changed?Back to newsletters